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Daily News - Thursday, 02 April 2009

Government announces repaving plan
During a Government Council meeting held in Santiago de los Caballeros yesterday, President Leonel Fernandez announced a strategic alliance between the government and municipal authorities for launching a plan to repave streets and build sidewalks and gutters. The government leader said that he would convene the country's mayors after Easter Week to discuss the plan's implementation. He maintained that paving city streets and repairing sidewalks and gutters is the municipalities' responsibility but that the government has decided to lend a hand in these projects.
Fernandez said: "I believe that this way the country can see that we are responding to demands that are legitimate, valid and that we are going to satisfy completely." He declared that the Dominican Republic must keep the peace, tranquility and family harmony in order to guarantee economic stability and reactivation of economic growth. "If we can sell ourselves as a safe place for foreign investment, the current situation can be turned into an opportunity for the Dominican Republic," he added.
The President said that in the face of the international financial crisis that affects the great world economic powers, his government is acting with a criterion of national unity. "This is what we are doing with the agreements from the summit, the popular dialogues and our everyday work," he said.
Fernandez said that the country is currently looking for financing from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Andean Development Corporation and the World Bank as a way of closing the gap between projected income and government expenditure.
Moreover, he pointed out that the measures aimed at reducing interest rates will help promote production and national productivity, guaranteeing a safe food supply.
During the Government Council meeting, officials presented their reports on the fulfillment of the agreement of the first phase of the Summit for National Unity in the face of the World Economic Crisis.
The President also announced that he was sending an official commission to Santiago to study the feasibility of the Tramline announced by the municipal council. In response, Santiago mayor Jose Enrique Sued asked the President to grant an import duty tax exemption for the equipment to be used in the tram project that seeks to improve the public transport system.

AMET to begin Holy Week operation
The Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) has announced the start of its preventive operation for Holy Week 2009 along the country's main highways and toll roads. The Easter holiday begins Friday, 3 April when schools are off, and ends Sunday, 12 April. The AMET operation, which starts on Monday, aims to prevent accidents during the traditional Easter Week holidays. The operation, which will be managed by the Department of Highway Order (DOCA), is a response to the considerable increase in traffic between Santo Domingo and the provinces, especially at beaches and rivers. During the operation more than 2,000 AMET agents will be using radar to control speed and breathalyzers to check for alcohol consumption as well as other preventive measures. The operation, ordered by AMET commanding officer General Rafael Oscar Bencosme Candelier also includes 24-hour surveillance of several strategic points.

Congressional leaders defend reform
The presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies will appear before the Fifth Civil Chamber of the Court of First Instance for the National District today to defend the legality of the constitutional reform process by way of a National Assembly acting as a Revisory Assembly. This follows an appeal filed by several entities that believe that the process should be carried out through a Constituent Assembly open to others in addition to legislators. Reinaldo Pared Perez and Julio Cesar Valentin were summoned to appear before this court that accepted the appeals case presented by the organizations known as Forum for the Constituent and the Alternative Summit. The hearings are expected to get under way at 9 o'clock this morning. Pared Perez maintained that this trial would not in the least impede the constitutional reform from going ahead because the Legislative Branch and the Judicial Branch are two separate powers of the state. Valentin added that he would take all necessary measures to defend the legitimacy of the constitutional reform process.

Government has issues with Bonogas Cards
The government says that the process of issuing Bonogas Cards to public transport drivers has been affected by problems beyond its control. Social Cabinet director Susana Gamez says the Ground Transport Office (OTTT) and the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET) have not reached an agreement with the drivers' associations as to just who is on the lists to receive the card. One group, headed by CNTU leader Ramon Perez Figuereo is asking for the card for more than 12,000 drivers. After a meeting between the parties, Gamez promised to review the lists of beneficiaries in order to start cleaning it up and settle the problems that are affecting the delivery of the cards. The OTTT was recently in the spotlight after TV investigative journalist Nuria Piera revealed rampant nepotism within the government department.

Market flooded with Metro wire?
Last year the country was inundated by wire imported for the construction of the first Santo Domingo Metro line, and a large proportion was reportedly diverted for commercial use, Hoy reports today. According to newspaper sources, RD$252 million or US$7 million worth of wire was imported last year. The sale of part of the imported wire has led to a 30% decrease in sales for regular suppliers, who suspect that metro wiring was diverted to the general market and sold to construction project engineers. Traders are concerned that the construction of the second metro line recently announced by the government could bring a repeat of this situation of unfair competition. The traders say the government itself stands to lose, as the wiring is imported tax-free and the local suppliers who do pay taxes are now paying less as a result of reduced sales.

Navy halts illegal trip to Puerto Rico
The Dominican Navy reports that it arrested eight people who are thought to have traveled with a group of 32 undocumented aliens headed to Puerto Rico from the eastern Dominican Republic. The arrests of the would-be immigrants came after officers of the Naval Intelligence Division (M-2) received reports about a planned illegal trip. According to their reports, the illegal travelers were planning to use Catalina island off La Romana as their point of departure. The Navy said that the operation ended when the trip was cut short by the Dominican vessel GC-102 Castor and a US Coast Guard helicopter. The illegal travelers arrested by Intelligence Division agents included Israel Guzman Paredes, Antolin Mejia Medina, Euclides Portalatin, Angel Rojas Garcia, Jhonathon Perez Rojas, Benjamin Reynoso Gomez, Jose Manuel Brito and Jose Antonio Brito. The Navy said that the detainees would be transferred to Intelligence Division headquarters in Santo Domingo East.

Six sentenced for drug flights
The Collegiate Tribunal of the Neyba Jurisdiction has sentenced pilots Harold and Antonio Manzano Garcia and four others found guilty of transporting cocaine into the country to ten years in prison. Judges Juan Francisco Carvajal, Nicio Antonio Medina Figuereo and Alejandro Montilla Ramirez convicted the Manzano Garcia brothers, one of whom had served a former lieutenant colonel in the Dominican Army, to pay a RD$50,000 fine apiece, as well as the forfeit of their property, including a helicopter. The court also imposed the same sentence on Colombian Oscar Mario Ochoa Montoya who piloted the small plane that landed on the dirt runway at Batey IV. Angel Wilson Adames Pena, Luis Frias Maritnez and Denis Cesarin Sanchez Jimenez were also given the same, ten-year, sentence. According to the case file, the drugs were taken to Barahona in a small plane, and then transferred to a helicopter flown by the Manzano brothers. The plane could not take off from the improvised runway, and the occupants were captured. The men have been in preventive custody since last year. Crime scene investigators found traces of cocaine in the plane.

Lawyer accused of helping fugitive
The attempts to get an officer in the Dominican Navy, Mayobanex Rodriguez Montero, accused of heading up the summary execution of seven Colombians last 4 August in Ojo de Agua, Paya, out of the country, are beginning to have consequences. The National District Prosecutor's Office is accusing lawyer Jose Sime of involvement in these attempts, and will be requesting preventive custody within a few hours. After being consulted by Diario Libre, District Attorney Alejandro Moscoso Segarra revealed that the evidence that his office has indicates that he is one of the people who contributed to Rodriguez Montero's attempt to take a flight to the Turks and Caicos, when he was arrested in Puerto Plata with dyed blond hair and a "Spanish accent." The prosecutor maintains that the lawyer ran the errands needed to get the passport and plane tickets. Sime is defense lawyer for Rodriguez Montero who is in Najayo Jail. According to the investigation, the attempt to get the former naval officer out of the country cost more than US$30,000 for the flight alone. The Central Electoral Board (JCE) Inspection Department asked the full board to fire Valentina Claridania Leonardo Montero, an assistant at the Number 4 Center for Cedulas, because she took the data that was used to change the military status of former first lieutenant Edward Mayobanez Rodriguez Montero, jailed in connection with the Paya case, to civilian status. Leonardo Montero was transferred to the Number 4 Center after the discovery that she requested tips from people wanting the personal identification and voter registration cards. She was denied access to the system as a result. Nevertheless, in order to access the program and change Rodriguez Montero's status she used co-worker Reynaldo Casanova Montero' password. Rodriguez Montero was arrested last 6 November in Puerto Plata as he tried to board a private flight to the Turks and Caicos.

Transport strike surprise
Protests and a wildcat transport strike disrupted daily life in Santo Domingo yesterday during a week in which protests continued with demands for the government to meet its pledges. In the morning, labor organizations held a four-hour watch at Independence Park as part of their call for a private sector wage increase and in rejection of business sector lobbies to change the Dominican Labor Code. Representatives of several workers unions warned that they would not attend the Salary Committee meeting, on the grounds that it would only deal with an increase in the minimum wage and they felt that an across-the-board wage increase was needed.
During the afternoon, dozens of organizations that make up the Alternative Social Forum held a march through several poor neighborhoods demanding that the government fulfill a series of social pledges. The march, flanked and nearly surrounded by police, went ahead peacefully, with more than one hundred people taking part. At the end of the march, union leader Francisco Antonio Santos said that this was the first in a series of activities planned for the coming weeks, after Easter Week. While this was going on, the Fenatrano transport union, which also took part in the march, called a stop to their members' buses, claiming harassment by the Metropolitan Transport Authority (AMET). The surprise work stoppage meant that hundreds commuters had to depend on the OMSA bus service.

JCE software sold to El Salvador
The proprietary computer software used for elections by the Central Electoral Board (JCE) was apparently stolen by an employee and subsequently sold to El Salvador as part of a "package" that included the program and the servers. A very similar product was shown off during their recent elections. Diario Libre phoned Rene Torres, the chief of the IT section at the Supreme Electoral Tribune in El Salvador, who reiterated that the system was sold to them by a company named UIS. The JCE is trying to establish whether the company has any connection with UIS Dominicana and its concessionaire UIS Taiwan. The former won the bidding to sell the JCE 800 units of equipment called EIT-3000 for scanning and transmitting election results, for more than RD$59 million, according to Act 076/2008 of the session of the Administrative Chamber on 25 February 2008.
The JCE Administrative Chamber says they know who stole the software, but will not reveal the name "in order not to complicate the investigations."
According to chamber chief magistrate Roberto Rosario, he and other magistrates saw the program working in the El Salvador elections on 21 March when they were there as observers. This was when they found out about the piracy that led to discussions between the Dominican delegates and the Salvadorans.
Rosario reported that as soon as they got back to the country, the employee from the IT section resigned. He had been working at the JCE for over six years. Administrative Chamber member Jose Angel Aquino denied that the accused had left the country and he said that the JCE is aware of his location.
The JCE Administrative Chamber is keeping very quiet about the investigations into this case. Rosario prefers to wait and not give out any statements. When Aquino was questioned as to whether the JCE would sue the private company that is selling the pirated software, he said that this would depend on the Attorney General's investigations, which will indicate the extent of the fraud. When Salvadoran official Rene Torres was asked about the value of the "package" that was purchased from the UIS Company, he said he did not know. The Administrative Chamber magistrates say they do not have this information, since the software, known as "Scrutiny (of vote counts) and Transmission" or simply EIT, was created by internal technicians at the JCE. Faced with this reality, the political parties are worried about breach of trust among the JCE IT department personnel.

Natural gas pipeline
The Compania de Electricidad de San Pedro de Macoris (CESPM) and AES Dominicana have agreed to build a natural gas pipeline between the natural gas port terminal at the port of Andres, near Las Americas International Airport, and the CESPM plants in San Pedro de Macoris. This will be the second natural gas pipeline promoted by AES. The first supplies power plants in Santo Domingo. Construction of the 40km and 12-inch pipeline is estimated to take 12-15 months. The agreement is part of the Basic Energy Strategic Plan 2008-2012 that seeks to convert three 100MW CESPM units to environmentally friendly natural gas for an additional 300 megawatts to the national grid. The plants currently run on Fuel Oil No. 2. CESPM is made up of the former Cogentrix Energy and Scotia Energy company plants purchased by Basic Energy in 2006.

Haitians study medicine in DR
As of July 2008, 3,806 Haitians were studying in Dominican universities. This is up almost 100% compared to the 1,900 students in 2005. Francisco D'Oleo of the APEC University Planning Department said that most Haitians study at the Universidad Tecnologica de Santiago (UTESA), with 1,831 students, Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM) with 680, Catolica de Santo Domingo (UCSD) with 215, Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) with 167, and APEC with 358 students. Students are 20-35 years old and most are men. A total of 1,596 Haitian students are studying medicine. Engineering and Computer science was chosen by 21%. A further16.6% chose social sciences and 10.8% chose philosophy and humanities (mainly Spanish). A total of 148 are on hotel school study courses, as reported in Hoy.

Masters Concert on Saturday
A great Rock & Blues concert will take place this coming Saturday, 4 April at Restaurant Chalet Suizo on Santo Domingo's Malecon, featuring talented Canadian singer and guitarist Ken Gelly as guest performer. Masters brings together veteran Dominican musicians who have other careers but get together to make the best music. 8pm, Rest Chalet Suizo, Tel 809 534-011, Autopista 30 de Mayo Km. 10-1/2. No cover, just come for dinner.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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